Summer of Engineering Health: A Software Intern's Story

Pratik will be starting his Junior year at the University of Michigan this Fall studying Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering. This summer he’s a Software Intern on Cerner’s LightsOn Network team. This is the story of his summer experience:

As a college student, it’s not every day that you get to work on cutting edge technology to transform healthcare as we know it. Every morning, I walk past a wall on the way to the elevator: “Health care is too important to stay the same.” Simple enough, huh?

Healthcare has been one of the few fields that has yet to fully embrace the possibilities new technology has afforded. Throughout my internship, there’s been an overall culture where associates understand they wouldn’t be working on something unless it was important. As a result, associates are visibly passionate and driven about the problems they’re working on, constantly striving to improve and add value. In my experience thus far, the environment at Cerner has been both engaging and supportive, allowing me to grow both personally and professionally as I strive to help improve healthcare and better the lives of others.

As interns, we had the opportunity to attend our two-day developer conference (DevCon) where we learned from talks on topics ranging from development technologies, innovating for maximum value, and understanding the perspectives of our clients when they use our solutions. I found it interesting to reflect on the differences between the “best solution” from a technology/development standpoint versus that of the end-user, maneuvering the product every day. More importantly, we discussed how we as engineers can provide users with opportunities to streamline their workflow and increase efficacy, without causing frustration among clients accustomed to a more traditional process. Changes need to be implemented gradually and seamlessly in order to get the most buy-in. Introduce change too fast and the users will be frustrated, regardless of the overall improvement.

Small Data, Big Picture

This summer, I have had the opportunity to work as a Software Intern on the LightsOn Network team, which develops a solution that provides both internal associates and external clients with the pertinent information necessary to make organizational decisions, whether that be in workforce experience, system configuration optimization, or organizational value. I’ve been contributing to a project aimed at providing users with additional clarity about the status of their data at the metric, dashboard, and data source levels. The status indicators update in real-time to provide clients with the most up to date information about their data. Users can then examine the dashboards with this information in mind or drill down to identify what specific feed may be causing the issue to troubleshoot. The ability to immediately make such a large impact on clients around the world as an intern has been a humbling experience.

The internship experience thus far has not only helped me learn about useful development languages including Django, Angular, and JQuery, but also opened my eyes to the considerations taken into account when delivering a successful analytics product and software application in general. I’ve experienced the importance of breaking down the product into individual problems to target and then working on telling a clear story in the final product. All around me, the decisions made are not based on technology alone, but first truly consider the value added to the individual providers we aim to serve. By reducing inefficiencies in healthcare, we allow providers to do their jobs more effectively and in turn, allow more people access to healthcare.

Key Takeaways

  • Built great connections with our team members and fellow interns
  • Learned new programming languages, but more importantly, became more experienced with engineering practices in a highly regulated industry, as well as, the agile development framework
  • Improved time management skills, especially optimizing my time usage when managing code reviews and future development tasks
  • Learned first-hand the value of diving in deep and taking advantage of every opportunity possible
  • Became inspired to continue applying computer science to the field of healthcare and constantly look for avenues to strengthen our solutions to ultimately benefit each patient
  • Realized that improvements to healthcare technology doesn’t only affect a specific group of people, but each and every one of us – the impact is enormous.